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Fish oil during pregnancy may cut baby’s asthma risk

Fish oil during pregnancy may cut baby’s asthma risk

Women who take fish oil supplements during their third trimester of pregnancy may cut their child’s risk of developing asthma, a new clinical trial suggests.

In a new study conducted by the Copenhagen Prospective Studies on Asthma in Childhood (COPSAC) and the University of Waterloo, it was found that women who were prescribed 2.4 grams of long-chain omega-3 supplements during the last weeks of pregnancy reduced their children's risk of asthma by 31 per cent.

Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are found in cold water fish and are key to regulating human immune response.

"We've long suspected there was a link between the anti-inflammatory properties of long-chain omega-3 fats, the low intakes of omega-3 in Western diets and the rising rates of childhood asthma," said Professor Hans Bisgaard of COPSAC at the Copenhagen University Hospital. "This study proves that they are definitively and significantly related."

Researchers analysed blood samples of 695 Danish women at 24 weeks' gestation and one week after delivery. They then monitored the health status of each participating child for five years, which is the age asthma symptoms can be clinically established.

The testing also revealed that women with low blood levels of EPA and DHA at the beginning of the study benefitted the most from the supplements. For these women, it reduced their children's relative risk of developing asthma by 54 per cent.

"The proportion of women with low EPA and DHA in their blood is even higher in Canada and the United States as compared with Denmark. So we would expect an even greater reduction in risk among North American populations," added Professor Ken Stark from the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences at Waterloo. "Identifying these women and providing them with supplements should be considered a front-line defence to reduce and prevent childhood asthma."

Currently, one out of five young children suffer from asthma or a related disorder before school age, the researchers claim.

The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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